FOR two weeks, we’ll give Matthew a Christmas vacation. We’ll resume studying his Gospel on January 9.
Today, we’re going to unpack a beautiful passage from Luke.
Here’s the Christma s message we want to preach to you today:
Angels Are All Around Us
I want to take you back 2,000 years ago to a quiet evening out in the fields,
where some shepherds were tending flock. There weren’t any lights coming from cars or lampposts or smartphones. Only the moonlight illuminated the surroundings. When all of a sudden, they were soaked by a bright light. It came from an angel of the Lord. We can only assume that they had never seen an angel before that incident – because the verse says that “they were terrified.” But the angel reassured them and told them, “Do not be afraid.”
It’s funny how the first reaction of the shepherds to the angel was not
excitement or joy, but fear. And it wasn’t just simple fear, but extreme fear.
They were terrified.
This was not the first time that an angel of the Lord appeared before human beings. And it also wasn’t the first time that the angel’s first words were: “Do not be afraid.”
When the angel Gabriel appeared before Daniel, she said, “Do not fear.” Same thing happened when she appeared before Zechariah.
She said, “Do not fear.”
An angel also appeared to Hagar and said, “Do not fear.”
Take a look at this photo of a beautiful angel. Trivia: The Bible rarely describes angels as having wings. Only two types of angels with wings are mentioned in the Bible: Cherubims and Seraphims. The image of an angel with wings only caught on because angels were said to move quickly from one place to another. So, people started assuming that they had wings. No one has a factual accurate description of what an angel looks like. So, for us to assume that this was what the angel that appeared before the shepherds that night looked like is completely inaccurate.
If the angel came as a person we know, there’s a big chance that our first reaction won’t be fear.
For example, what if the angels that showed up at your front door looked like this:
Mega popular, especially among millennials, this is BTS, also known as the Bangtan Boys, a South Korean boy band formed in 2010 and debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment.
Or what if they looked like this: SB19, Filipino boy band that debut in 2018 consisting of Josh, Pablo, Stell, Ken, and Justin, the first Filipino and Southeast Asian act to be nominated in the Billboard Music Awards for the Top Social Artist category.
Or what if they looked like this: The Kerygma 5, singing Feast Preachers, from left: Jon Escoto, Arun Gogna, Adrian Panganiban, Alvin Barcelona, and Obet Cabrillas.
Or lastly, what if they looked like this: The Prayboyz, from left: Audee Villaraza, Carlo Lorenzo, Mike Viñas, John Ben Rodriguez, and Francis Yanga.
I doubt if you’ll run away screaming. Some women will probably run towards them screaming!
God doesn’t always use a friendly face to deliver His message. Sometimes, He’ll use an unlikely messenger. Someone you didn’t even consider or count.
I was walking with my son Ethan to the National Bookstore the other day to buy Christmas wrappers when I noticed him wave to someone behind us. I thought he saw a friend. When I turned, I saw an old beggar. He was smiling at Ethan and waving at him. Just like with the shepherds, my first reaction was fear.
But then Ethan tugs me in the arm and whispers to me, “Dad, do you have food? Can we give him some?”
We happened to be right in front of a bakeshop so we entered and bought him some bread and a drink. That unexpected moment gave me more joy than anything I experienced this week.
What if the joy that you’ve been praying for this Christmas will not come in a pretty packaging? Or a familiar face?
The prettiest presents don’t always come in perfect packaging.
Actually, the most glorious present the world has received was wrapped in simple swaddling clothes.
God loves sending His message through the most unexpected messengers. Why? So that we put a premium on the message and not on the messenger
There are some people who love hearing Mass when their favorite priest is celebrating. That’s fine. But don’t make it an excuse not to hear Mass when there’s another priest celebrating.
You might be like, “That priest is so boring. He speaks carabao-English.
His sermon is like the teleserye Ang Probinsyano…it goes on and on. It has no ending.”
Friend, there are angels all around us. We don’t know what they look like.
Keep your eyes open.
5 Christmas Messages
A Peaceful Message
DR. RYAN CAPITULO Pro-Life Obstetrician-Gynecologist Feast SM Manila Builder and Preacher
They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. (v. 9-10)
The First Message we’d like to give you to make this season more joyous is this: Christmas gives us peace.
Allow me to transport you to the very first Christmas night. The Blessed Virgin Mary was riding on a donkey with Saint Joseph walking beside her.
They were looking for a room in Bethlehem to stay in. And let me remind you, Mary was in labor.
I am an OB-GYN doctor and I have seen thousands of women in labor and I’m telling you, there is no peace during labor. Oh, during labor, women would scream so loud, they would squeeze your hands so tight. Some women may even curse.
Some will squirm, and some may even kick you with every contraction. No peace at all. And mind you, Mary was not even lying on a comfortable bed… I don’t even know when her water broke…Not peaceful, right?
But whenever I deliver a baby and then I give the baby to its mother, I would always notice that the woman’s disposition would suddenly change. And it happens every single delivery I would attend to… From labor, and bearing down is immediately replaced with the glow of motherhood. The vision of a mother nursing her baby, for me, is the most peaceful image we can ever see.
Despite the difficult circumstances that Mama Mary endured, imagine her now cradling the Baby Jesus. Imagine Mama Mary nursing the Savior of the World. Now, that is truly a most peaceful image.
My dear friends, we are still going through difficult times right now. COVID-19 does not give us peace. Unemployment and poverty—they do not give us peace. Illness and death do not give us peace. Broken relationships do not give us peace. Graft and corruption—they do not give us peace. But I urge all of you: Whenever you feel chaos inside of you, whenever you feel uncertainty and turmoil, whenever you feel despair, sadness, and depression, just look to the manger…
Look at Mama Mary nursing the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. Look to the manger of Bethlehem and find peace.
Christmas is a message that if you have Jesus, you can have peace even in the midst of chaos.
May the angel of the Lord reassure you this season.
A Practical Message
DR.DIDOY LUBATON Natural and Holistic Doctor
Feast Mall of Asia Builder and Preacher How many of you have some needs this Christmas? Raise your hands. I need something also…Who is happy that you’re here live? Who’s happy that you’re still tuning in? Even more than a year and a half into the Pandemic.
The Christmas story also has a practical message The nation of Israel had been praying for a Savior, a Messiah, someone who would restore and bring unity and peace to the world.
So, God sent them what they needed:
1The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (v. 11)
And I’m so grateful, glad that God knows what I need. Not just what I want.
If I always get what I want, when I want it, and how I want it, I might mismanage His blessing. Thank God that He knows when I’m ready for a blessing, when I’m ready for that promotion, that baby, that healing.
If you haven’t received it, it’s probably because God thinks you don’t need it.
Believe that He wants something better for you.
I once met a single man who was praying for a spouse. And he said to me, “Brother Didoy, I’m ready to get married.”
I looked at him, and I said, “How many years had you been telling that to me?” And he said, “I’m really ready now.”
So, we talked, through discernment, through prayer, and you know what he really needed first was not to get married. What he needed was to change his heart, to change his lifestyle, to get himself ready for the commitment to die for someone he loves. And his hate could end him and his loved one to be into deeper hurt.
I thank God because He gave him what he needed. He needed some wisdom, some time to wait…It didn’t turn out to be what he wanted. But God gave him what he needed.
Sometimes, God allows us to wait for the blessing. Because the waiting is the blessing. How many can relate to that? Say “Amen!”
On another day, I met a couple wanting to separate because they said they had irreconcilable differences. Then they had COVID and they were confined in hospital… And they faced the stark reality of eventually losing one another.
I thank God they recovered. Thanks for the medical science…But they did not just recover from their disease. They also recovered their marriage. And they finally found each other again… And they are now inseparable.
How many here had a crisis year? God is giving you a blessing!
I also met another couple who had been very busy for so many years…They told me their joy is not complete because they had been praying for a baby. And they were so frustrated, sometimes they fought each other.
And I told them, “Don’t fight. Just make love. Then you’ll have a baby.” Then the Pandemic happened, forcing people to stay home. And everybody transitioned into being productive… This couple also became reproductive.
And the blessing came: the joy of having a baby.
God really works in many, many ways.
The year 2021 has been a tough year for me. I lost two persons close to me— Dr. Ken Puzon and Fr. Michael La Guardia. I fell really into deep depression. I thought I’d lose my mind. I was anxious of what lies ahead. I was afraid for myself, my family, my community.
But God gave me what I needed. I stand before you and say God gives what we need – even the things we don’t want. God gave me inner strength, the hope that will not be disappointing. The passion and the purpose to carry on…
God gave my wife Mai and me a renewed marriage. God gave us what we needed—a vacation– the chance to rest, renew, to rediscover each other. We are more intimate than ever before. God renewed in me the gift of family—the Lubatons, the Aglas, and even our faith community. I take this time to thank them. You know who you are. You did not give up on me. You gave me comfort and confidence.
And those were what I needed.
God gave me steadfastness at work. The blessing is at work. And when I was in pain, work really helped me…
We were able to heal many seafarers in my clinic and many of those people who had COVID… I was able to expand health care I’d been providing.
Even in pain. Even in wanting and waiting. You know, our company gets the recognition of the industry and it’s not just about the profit. But it’s the number of people we were able to help. During these uncertain times, get to work. Sometimes, that is the blessing.
Don’t resist the blessing. The blessing is coming to you. As Audee said, sometimes the blessings are wrapped in different ways. Sometimes they are wrapped in pain. So, accept the pain and get to work.
I thank God that He knows best. Even if it takes some burden and some breaking, He gives what we need… to turn the breaking into a blessing.
Even if I don’t get it– not how I want it, when I want it. If I just focus on that, I might miss the blessing. The breaking is my blessing. My hardest most difficult year so far, at 35 years of age, turned out to be the biggest and best of them all. Not by my power but by God’s gift.
The gift of Christmas is for us to be reminded that God gives us what we need. The practical need and also our deepest need. Do you know them? Do you have them? Present them to God.
And if you haven’t received them yet, probably they’re on the way. It’s in the process. It’s in the unwrapping. Be patient. Mama Marry carried Jesus for nine months. Be patient. Maybe you’re pregnant with that blessing that you’re not ready to give birth to. Believe in God.
God’s plans are bigger, better, and brighter. Believe in Him. Because He is the miracle worker. He is the healer. He is the provider. And I want to end with a reminder from Isaiah 35:4:
He will come and save you this Christmas season. Every heart, prepare Him room… Receive the blessing of Jesus. Present to Him everything you need—from the practical to the deepest need that you have. And trust and praise Him. And believe He will come and save you. Amen.
A Promising Message
BRO. ADRIAN PANGANIBAN
Builder, Feast Bay Area-Audience of One
Christmas is a message of hope that still echoes today. The angel announced,
“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. (v. 10)
Jesus personally came down to hand-deliver you a gift that will not just give you joy for a season, but joy for a lifetime. Unlimited.
Joy that cannot be taken away.
We’re coming in live here at the Barcelona Academy, Meycauyan, Bulacan. I wanna see all alive viewers and audience. Yes, wave your hands. Waving of hands are all these happy people!
And my message to you, this is the Third Message, is about God’s promises.
Christmas is a message of hope and up to now the message reverberates, it echoes up to this day. As the angel announced: “I bring good news.” And that news brings great joy for all people.
But what’s happening with the world? What’s happening to the Philippines?
What’s happening all around us? Is this great joy?
If you’re going to ask me why is this happening to us, to our country, to our world—honestly, I really don’t know.
Because we cannot fathom, we cannot understand, we cannot lean on our understanding. God’s thoughts are different from our thoughts. And yes, today, I’d like to reiterate to you that God’s words are filled with promises. Promises of hope, love, joy, and peace. From being a Creator, He is our Provider, our Redeemer, our Healer—a God who pours out all His blessings and healing, and miracles to all of us.
One of the greatest joys in my life is when I serve. Right now, I am talking before a live audience. This is surreal. It’s really happening right before our eyes…
Speaking of God’s promise of joy, I never thought that one of these days, I’d be speaking not only in front of you, but in front of my head Pastor, my leader, and he’s none other than Brother Bo Sanchez—right in front of us. Do you know how that feels? He’s a seasoned speaker and yet he’s the one listening to us right now. I never dreamt of that but God made ways to make it happen today.
Speaking of service, last night, 14 hours ago, we were just here, and we had a live concert with the Kerygma 5. It was a concert to raise funds for the Mercy Ministries of the Light of Jesus Family. And believe it or not, for two hours and a half, the concert was able to raise P700,000. That was produced by Feast Singapore. And a part of the proceeds will be donated to the victims of Typhoon Odette.
Lastly, one of the greatest joys in my life is that I was given a blessing to be able to serve my beloved mother. She’s very young—just a few days ago, she became a centenarian. She just celebrated her 100th birthday. So, don’t ever dare to calculate how old I am. That’s one of my greatest blessings and it puts a smile on my face every time I look at my Mom. I am really proud that I’m the one who’s taking good care of my beloved mother. Because in the Book of Exodus, there’s a promise that says honor and serve your father and your mother and your life will be prolonged on the land that God gives you…
Our God of promises will surely fulfill every single word, every single promise that He has given, that He has made for us.
A great mathematician counted 8,810 promises of God written in the Bible. Another one counted like 7,407 promises.
This means that God’s promises are limitless. You can count on God’s promises. You cannot count God’s blessings. You cannot count how many times God has healed us, that God has provided for us. What seems impossible to men, everything is possible with God.
People say that life is short. Why not think of Eternity that has no end? A life, a place where our Father awaits all of us. A home where there will be no more hurts, no more pains, no more tears. And no more goodbyes. That place is God’s promise to us– and that is Heaven.. Sisters and brothers, this is the message.
A Present Message
Light of Jesus Family
The Fourth Message today is about the Present Message. Verse 11 says the Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today. Jesus was not just our Savior when we first came to know Him. For me, I was 12 years old when I gave my life to Jesus. He became my Savior. But He has not stopped being my Savior.
Today He is my Savior.
A few days ago, I watched the television series The Chosen. I love that series and I highly recommend it. I watched Episode 6—where Mary Magdalene backslides. What we read in the Bible is that Mary had seven demons. Jesus redeems her, saves her from the demons. And then she starts following Jesus all the way…
In previous episodes of The Chosen, Mary Magdalene was very strong, faithful, devoted, and committed. And then in this one episode, she backslides. She gets affected by her traumas. She gets affected by the demons. And then she falls. She runs away from the band of the disciples of Jesus. She finds herself in a gambling den. And she loses it. She just lost it.
Then Matthew and John search for her, find her crying in a corner, bring her back to Jesus.
Jesus says to a very embarrassed, ashamed woman, “What will redemption be if you can give it up in a day?” Then He says, “I forgive you.”
And they end up in a beautiful, compassionate embrace.
You know, when I was watching that, I was telling myself that’s my story. Is that your story too? We’re not saved once. We’re saved again and again…
I came from battling pornographic addiction. I was molested as a child. It perverted the way I looked as sex.
And I remember, I was invited for the very first time to speak in a Catholic conference in the United States. You can just imagine how overwhelmed I was to go there– speaking to an international audience for the very first time.
Soon as I arrived, the host brought me to my hotel room. I sat on the bed.
I got the remote, turned on the television. And for the very first time in my life— this was pre-Internet days— I chanced upon channels on pornography.
Now, I want you to know that during that time, if I wanted porn back home in the Philippines, I’d have to go look for slutty magazines. But at the time I was already sober. I had not fallen for a long, long time. Yet here I was all alone in a foreign country, in this hotel room, with a buffet of pornography on the TV set.
And I was so, “OMG! It’s all here!”
I want you to know that Jesus, He is not our Savior only last week, last year, 10 years ago. Jesus is our Savior today. And by the grace of God, I’m telling you, I did not know how I did it… I was just grabbing, I was just holding that remote, and I was trembling… and I was able to watch Batman.
The next day, I went to that international conference. I spoke to an international audience.
And the first thing I said was, “Last night, I almost watched pornography.” You can just imagine, you know, how shocked these priests in front of me were–perhaps saying to one another, “Why did we invite him?”
I’m telling you, one of the crazy things we do as Christians, as Catholics, is that we pretend we’re strong.
We pretend, “I was saved a long time ago and now, I’m well.”
That’s why I love that episode in The Chosen. Because it shows that we need a Jesus to save us every day. That was my message to that conference in the U. S. and that’s my message to you today.
Don’t ever think Jesus saved you once and that you don’t need Jesus now. You need Jesus now. You need Him every day, every moment.
Let me close…
A friend of mine, he played golf in this golf course just three months ago. And he had a new caddie. The following week, he went back to the golf course and he looked for the same caddie.
Another caddie told him, “Wala na. Tinamaan ng kidlat.” That girl was struck by lightning on the golf course. Dead. Then my friend said, “We really do not hold our life, and I absolutely do not. We just have to do the good that we can.”
Absolutely. I am not saying this is what happened, but I’m just imagining: What if that woman was very careful not to have COVID? What if that woman was very careful not to get into accidents?
I’m not saying, “Don’t be careful about this and that.”
No. But even if you are, you can be struck by lightning…
Can you breathe? Inhale. Jesus saved you right there.
Once more. Inhale. Jesus saved you right there. He gave you that breath right there.
Yes, every moment, Jesus is my Savior. Amen.
A Personal Message
So, five messages of Christmas. Christmas is Peaceful, it’s Practical, it’s Promising, it’s Present and here’s the last message that will give your Christmas deeper meaning: Christmas is Personal.
Everybody say: “Personal.”
In the words of our very good friend, Fr. Michael La Guardia, “Personalan.”
How do we make Christmas personal? We make it personal to us. Make the season a personal relationship with Jesus—accepting the gift. Because you can’t get any more personal than a God– a Divine Being, the Supreme Being, the Most Holy Being, sending His only Son to us. He could have sent a next-door neighbor. He could have sent a cousin. He could have sent a helper. Instead, He sent His one and only Son. You can’t get any more personal than that.
So, how can we make Christmas personal? I asked our Warmth servants to give you a piece of paper. This is our simple gift to the Celebrant. We cannot give anything material to God…But one thing that we can give to the Lord is a sacrifice.
I want you to write your simple gift.
I want you to answer this question:
I want you to keep praying about it. Keep discerning about it. You don’t have to write it this very minute. But if you have it in your heart, something that you want to offer to our Lord, write it down.
Let me read to you why I’m preaching this– from a perspective that this is a personal message– because it says in verse 10:
The angel of the Lord said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.
To all people. That means you. That means I. God is bringing great joy to every person here.
We receive the gift.
You Need Only One Gift
As I close, let me share with you my personal gift to Jesus: I will put top priority in pastoring my family.
My good friend, Mike Vinas, asked me last week, “Do you plan to teach Ethan about Santa Claus?”
It was a beautiful question. I said to him, “He knows who Santa Claus is.
That’s fine. I grew up knowing Santa. But of course, I’d like him to know Jesus more.”
I started teaching Ethan about Jesus earlier this year when we started homeschooling him. At first, he had a hard time understanding the concept of praying to someone he doesn’t see.
But then last month, our family had a big scare. We were suspected of COVID. We all had the symptoms. It started with Ethan who had a cough and then fever. And then my wife Kristel was infected. She had fever, sore throat, heavy colds and loss of taste. Our youngest, Ellie, had colds too. I was the least affected. I had only a mild sore throat. So, we quarantined ourselves for 10 days. During our quarantine, every night, Ethan and I would pray for our family one by one.
I told him, let’s ask “Papa Jesus to make you better.”
The next day, he was so much better. It was so good. He attributed his healing to Papa Jesus. How did I know?
Because when he felt bad again that night, he said to me, “Dad, let’s pray to Papa Jesus so He can make me better.”
And every night since then, we would pray together before going to bed.
By God’s grace, the COVID test results were negative.
We’re now teaching Ethan about Christmas. This will be his first Christmas where he’s conscious enough to know that he’ll be receiving a lot of gifts.
And so, we’re already preparing him by telling him, “Son, you’ll be receiving a lot of gifts because people love you and want to give you joy. But remember, it’s not your birthday. Whose birthday is it?”
He’ll always say, “It’s Papa Jesus’ birthday.”
Ethan’s gift to Jesus is that he’ll love his family more. We all wrote our gift on a piece of paper. And on December 25, we’re going to offer this to Him. I’d like to invite you to do the same. Come before the altar and offer your gift to the celebrant on December 25. And then worship Him. Praise Him. Thank Him. Love Him. Receive The Gift of Jesus.